By Faith

When people work, their wages are not a gift. Workers earn what they receive. But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work.” Romans 4:4-5 NLT

Read these verses over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?
A question keeps running through my head, are you righteous? To answer this question, we need to understand what righteousness is. There are at least three different ways to understand righteous. It is used as slang to mean genuine or excellent. The way that most church lay people use it is morally right but in doctrine or theology it means free from guilt or sin. The Greek word means justified, innocent or holy. So now that we know the definition, are you righteous?

This is a tough and difficult thing to fully comprehend. In the time of Jesus, the religious leaders of the day believed righteousness come from keeping the law. They earned righteousness. Paul points out that this makes no sense. If we work hard then we expect to be paid. It is owed to us but to be righteous, perfect, innocent, means we have no sin. That is humanly impossible. Meaning we can’t earn righteousness. We are born sinners.

Paul describes it this way in verse 3: “What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Abraham was righteous not because of his work but because of his faith. We can get lost in the debate and the particulars but how does this relate to me?

The law is important, but it is not meant to be a bat to beat us over the head with. It is there to show us that we are sinners who aren’t righteous but wicked. We can’t earn righteousness. God didn’t leave us in this hopeless state. He delivered us by providing a way, a free gift, not eared but given. It is received through faith. We believe that we need a Savior and we believe that Jesus is our Savior therefore we are saved.

This affects us in how we live. If we just go through the motions, doing what we think is right we will get lost in the doing never knowing real love and never living out that love. If we turn our lives over to God through faith, then love will overflow from within us and we will live in righteousness. It isn’t the act but the motive behind the act. We are judged by our hearts. Have you allowed God in your heart or is it full of the world, sin? Do you have faith in God or self? Faith in God saves, faith in self condemns.

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Live Reckless

God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” Ephesians 2:6

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

I encourage you to read the whole section that this verse comes from verses 1-10. I was reluctant to post this verse because we are in Lent and this is a theme for after Easter but that is a ritual in the church that is very helpful for us, but I felt God wanted this verse posted today. Why? I feel God is whispering “live reckless.”

It is easy to get caught up in sin, which is death. We can get caught up in sin by constantly doing it without thought. As verse 2 points out, we follow the ways of this world. Also verse 3 goes on to say gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature. When sin has ahold of us we don’t know any better. We are dead, lost in darkness, but now we are alive, raised up with Christ.

Another way sin can have ahold of us is through gilt. We feel so bad about who we are that we won’t allow God’s forgiveness to rest on us. We won’t forgive ourselves so then we won’t allow God to forgive us. For those of us in this category, Lent can be brutal. We beat ourselves up over how bad we are. That is not living in Grace. That is not being raised with Christ.

The point of our verse, of this whole section is that we are no longer dead, lost in darkness. We are alive having been raised with Christ. That is what Easter is all about. Even though we are in a season of preparation for Easter, it is not a time to forget what it is all about. Yes, we are sinners. It is important to understand our sins and work on ways to let those sins go but Jesus paid our debt. We owe nothing. He broke those chains that we still wrap around ourselves keeping us from living a life of grace.

Living in grace means we have the freedom and the strength to love freely. We don’t have to worry about our sin. We don’t have to do things to earn our freedom. We just need to live with God’s love overflowing to all those around us. It is living recklessly. What I mean by that is we don’t have to think about doing good. We just do it. We don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone. We just live out God’s love. We don’t have to fear death or retaliation. We don’t have to prepare for the worst. What will happen will happen but because we are in Christ Jesus it will be good.

It is not easy for me to say because it is very difficult for me to do. I have lived my life in fear. Fear of failure. Fear of sinning. Fear of doing the wrong thing. I was not raised in Christ to live in fear. Neither were you. Can you live recklessly in grace? By reckless I mean doing what this world sees as reckless. Living in a way that doesn’t expect payback. That doesn’t seek praise or reward. Live in a way that we always think of God and others first. In verse 10 our purpose is summed up: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” In a world lost to self this is reckless. But because we are raised in Christ Jesus this is our life now. Live reckless.

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By our Love

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.” 1 John 2:9

Rad this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

By our love they will know we are Christians. That is what John is telling us. We can claim we are Christians all we want but if we don’t love then we are liars. Are you a Christian?
There is a question that is asked by Pastors and people that says If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict? The point is if people can’t tell that you are Christian by your actions are you really a Christian? If someone on the outside can’t tell that you are saved are you really saved? Martin Luther says that saving faith produces fruit. James says we can judge our faith by our works. Do your actions fit the faith you claim to have? Do we need to change?

I live in a community that it is easy to claim that I am Christian. In America surveys say that eighty percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. I look at the evidence and it seems to me that we are looking less than fifty percent are Christians. Surveys also say that twenty percent go to church regularly, yet statistics show only ten percent attend church according to the attendance numbers. Where does that leave us?

Where have we gone wrong? I will admit that my actions don’t always give the best impression. I have treat people poorly and have had issues with not liking some people, but that’s not hate, hate is such a strong word. Well once again the Spirit convicts. If we look at the Greek word used for hate, misos, it means to detest. Which is strong, but it can also mean to love less which isn’t as strong. What if we changed the word to dislike your brother. We again I would justify myself by saying well I love my family but the word for brother is all encompassing here, like Jesus using neighbor.

Think about your church family. Is there animosity toward one another? Does your church have certain groups that it does not like to be around or even want in their church? Do you see our problem? I know what your thinking, those other people don’t get it. As you wag your finger notice there are three fingers pointing back at you. We are all the problem. There isn’t enough love in our hearts. If there was the world would be a different place. That is the message John is sending in his letter.

Now that we are convicted what are we going to do about it? It is time to forgive. It is time to pray for those we are having problems with. If we genuinely pray for someone how can we then hate them? We are blessed because we know about grace. The problem is we aren’t living it. Grace has saved us. If we are saved by Grace, why can’t we then offer grace to others?

By our love they will know us. How much love do they see? When others see you at a distance can they see love? When you don’t think anyone is watching, is there love? Remember, by our love…

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Walk with Me

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1 NKJV

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

This morning the whisper I hear is “walk with me.” The whisper is gentle yet definite. It is inviting yet strong. The Holy Spirit convicts but does not condemn. If you feel condemned, you hear the devil not the Holy Spirit. So, let us walk with Jesus.

It is hard for me to focus this morning. This year Day Light Savings time has kicked my butt. I can’t seem to wake up an hour earlier. I may get up with the alarm, but I am in a daze. I guess it is a sign that I am getting older. With this struggle has come some crankiness. I’m a little short tempered. I find myself getting bothered by things that I can usually let go. I’m feeling the pressure of little things. I feel like things have suddenly been dumped on me. Where was all this a week ago?

I need to step back and let go. I think this is why the Holy Spirit is whispering “walk with me.” With my lack of sleep, I am reverting back to wanting to be in control. It is my natural response when I struggle, when I am under pressure. It is evidence that I still have a long way to go. I am convicted but not condemned. There is a difference.

The Holy Spirit convicts us, finds us guilty, but then offers a way out. Repent, and you will be free. What does this mean? It is more than confession. It is a change in direction. It is turning around and going toward Jesus instead of a way from Him. The devil on the other hand, wants us to feel condemned so that we will not turn around. He wants us to feel hopeless. He wants us to stop trying. He wants us to give up. But Jesus is our hope. Jesus is our strength. Jesus is our way out.

It is easy to get the two confused, condemnation and conviction. When we are convicted we are found guilty and brought to the sentencing. If we repent, if we accept Jesus as our Savior the sentence is time served, penalty paid, you are free. If we are not in Jesus. If we do not accept Jesus as our Savior then we are condemned, judgement is passed our verdict is death and eternity in hell. The devil wants us to feel this torment so that we will not look for anything else. He wants us to think we are not good enough for mercy. We don’t deserve grace. He is right but that is what grace means, undeserved mercy. The devil is the king of half-truths. He is a deceiver. He will tell some truth to get us to listen then lead us astray with lies or deception by not telling the whole truth.

We are sinners. The devil will use that as his half-truth. He will point out our sins but then he will say we don’t deserve to be forgiven. That is also true but what he won’t tell you is that God loves us so much He forgives us anyway. Out of grace we are forgiven for the worst of the worst. The worst of the worst is following our own desires instead of looking to God to lead us. This is all sin. Now if the devil can’t get us to believe that we are too bad for forgiveness he will make us think we are too good to ask for it. He will make us think that we deserve forgiveness. That we have earned our way into heaven. That is also a lie.

Hear the Holy Spirit whisper “walk with me.” Don’t get caught up with trying to do it yourself or that you can’t walk with Jesus. God loves you. This love goes beyond anything we can do or not do. His love saves us if we are willing to accept it. Don’t feel condemned and don’t condemn people. It is not our place to give such judgement. Instead follow the Holy Spirit and point others to Jesus. Give grace, live grace and follow grace.

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Never Dark

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

This morning the whisper I hear is “never dark.” What does this mean? If we believe in Jesus, we will never walk in the dark. Not literal darkness but the darkness of evil. The darkness of lies. The darkness of sins.

The concept of never walking in darkness is hard to comprehend. In fact, when Jesus said this those present had no idea what He was talking about. They kept asking questions and Jesus told them that they didn’t comprehend because they were trying to understand in human terms. We must know Jesus before we can understand Him. But too many of us want to know about Jesus and understand what He is saying before we accept Him as our Savior. That isn’t faith. That isn’t letting go of control. That is us trying to control God. That is being of this world.

I struggle with this understanding too. I want to know. I want to understand but I can’t without the help of the Holy Spirit. It all boils down to trust. Do you trust God or self? If you trust God, then you will believe with out proof or explanation. If you trust self, then you want to understand first. I too often need to understand first which is evidence that my faith is very weak. It also leaves me asking a lot of questions and getting few answers unless I ask in faith. In other words, we should ask questions not to control God but to get to know Him so that we can follow His desires instead of our own.

As we get to know Jesus and allow Him in our life we will start to be in the light. This means we will shine in the darkness. It means we will be a positive influence on those around us, leading them to Christ or at least helping them have a closer relationship with them. We won’t be overcome by the darkness that is all around us. We won’t be lead into temptation because we find full satisfaction in God, in Jesus, in the Holy Spirit. We will have no need to sin because it doesn’t present anything better than what we have.

It is clear I have a long way to go. I am tempted. I too often get caught up in my desires instead of God’s desires. My prayers are often about fulfilling my desires instead of God’s desires. So, I try to pray for God to make His desires my desires. I want to be in the light, not darkness. I want to shine so others can see, not block the light and support darkness. But the struggle continues. Lord, bring us all into Your light. Help us to make Your desires our desires. In Christ’s Name we pray, Amen.

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And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

This morning God is bringing peace to me and you. I woke up this morning to hear that President Trump did indeed enact steel and aluminum tariffs. I don’t want to get political so I’m not going to discuss if I think it is right or wrong. Anxiety came over me, however, because the last time this happened the other countries retaliated against Ag products. As a farmer I can’t afford a trade war. The disastrous 80’s which saw farmers going bankrupt was started by trade wars. The biggest difference right now is we already have historically low prices for our grain. When compared to inflation our prices are even lower than they were in the 80’s. So, we can’t afford for them to go lower. That would be devastating. As I worry about this I hear God’s whisper “trust me. Allow my peace to flow over you and guard your heart and mind.”

It is important that we read the verse just before this one, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (vs 6) As our anxieties mount we need to remember to let it go and give it to God through prayer and petition with thanksgiving. This means we need to pray with a trust that God will do what is best, so we should pray with an attitude of thanksgiving knowing that God hears our prayer and will grant it according to our needs and the needs of others. God’s will, will be done.

This morning I did just that, I prayed with thanksgiving and I felt this peace come over me. Now each time I start to think about the what ifs, I need to turn it over to God and let Him take care of it. That is how peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I’m not going to pretend that I remember to always do this. I am still a sinner. I still allow my need of control to cloud my judgment. But I think I’m better than I was. I think that I learn each time.

What worries and anxieties do you have? What do you need to trust God with? It isn’t easy to turn over everything to God. I turn certain areas over to God but hold on to others. When my wife was diagnosed with cancer God called me to turn her over to Him, to trust Him. I did but I kept control of other things. Now I need to do a better job of turning the farm over to Him. I have struggled with turning over my kids to Him and the ministry He gives me.

The reality is anything that I have control over will be a burden to me. It will weigh me down and keep me from being the best that I can be. I can see poor decisions that I have made because I didn’t trust God and instead tried to take things into my own hands. That is what is at stake here. We have to trust God because the alternative is hard to bear. If we don’t trust, then we risk losing our faith. If we lose faith we lose hope and soon we will find ourselves in a deep dark hole of despair. Maybe you are there right now, in a darkness that you see no end. Trust God. Turn your life over to Him. Allow His light to shine and then you will see. You will have hope again. You will have peace even in the storm.

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God Knows

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

This morning God is reminding me that He knows everything. In some respects, this is comforting and in others it is disheartening. The question often comes up if God knows, why would He allow bad things to happen. Thus, our verse comes to us.

Our verse is often used as a justification for finger waging. Christians use this to justify condemning people. So, why is this verse used now when our theme has been about love? I think it is because God is calling us deeper. As we dig into our verse we see that the word used for double-edged sword is a word used to describe a sword of battle, but if we include the words around this verse we see the context isn’t talking about us going to battle with others. It is about God going to battle with sin.

You see the Greek word used for “word” is logos. It is the same word used by John to describe Jesus. It can be translated as the divine expression. So, the divine expression of God is living and active. In other words, the Word of God isn’t just spoken or written down. It is constantly working. It penetrates deep within us to the point of dividing soul and spirit, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Can you correctly judge someone’s thoughts and attitude of the heart? We don’t have that ability. We can’t read minds, but God can.

So, if God knows our hearts and minds why does He allow bad things to happen? Because He loves us. This is hard to comprehend especially in todays society where we do our best to shield our children from anything that might upset them. Giving them all they could ever desire. What is the result of a child being given everything they want, never being told no? You don’t have to look very far to see these spoiled kids now expecting everyone to bow to their will. If sin is doing our own will why would God allow us to have everything go our way?

With a world full of people obsessed with fulfilling their every desire it is a wonder that things aren’t worse than they are. God allows the consequences of sin to play out so that we can learn from our mistakes. God allows bad things to happen so that we will look for answers, so that we will seek help. Our job as Christians is not to force people to be good but pick up the pieces when their sin breaks them apart.

God’s word will cause us to realize our sin. The natural consequences of sin will make us fall. In either case we need to be there to reveal the Savior. People who are convicted or broken don’t need more breaking, they need to be built up. They need to be shown love. They need to be shown a better way to live. That is the purpose of God’s word. It will convict us, but it will also heal us. Don’t use it to attack but to love.

I will confess that I am guilty of using God’s word for selfish reasons. I have used it to put people down so that I look better than them. I have used it for my own gain. I have used it to judge others. But God has used it to change me. God has used it to separate my sin so that I can see it.

Despite what we think, God is love. Even when we are convicted, even when sin catches up to us, even if we are caught up in the awful things that seem to happen to innocent people. God so loved us that He saves us from ourselves. He saves us from our sin. He paid the price to set us free so that we can freely love Him and others. God knows your heart and He knows what each of us need to change our hearts for Him. Turn to Him, allow His Word to penetrate and free us from our own desires. Then allow God’s love to flow through you.

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“[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:7

Read this verse over and over. What is God whispering to you?

Love seems to be the theme recently. These verses just seem to jump off the page and grab me. First Corinthians chapter thirteen is a beautiful description of Love. The Greek word is agape (ag-ah-pay). It is plural. In other words, it is a Love feast. This is the kind of love that God has toward us and it is the love that God is calling us to.

This morning we are focused on verse seven. “Love always protects…” If we dig deeper, we see other words that could be used: bears or suffers. The Greek word is stego. It means to roof over, cover in silence, endure patiently. It doesn’t necessarily mean we protect the one we love as much as we protect the love we have for them. In other words, we protect the relationship of love. How do we protect the relationship of love?

We protect our relationships with mercy and Grace. We forgive easily, in fact we overlook the faults of those we love. That is what unconditional love is. It is a love without reason. We love not because of what people do for us but because God so loved us. This is a hard love. We learn from a very young age that we only trust those who do good to us. We stay away and even withhold our love and respect for those who are bad, but that isn’t what Paul is saying in this verse. He is describing the kind of love we should show everyone, not just our family and friends.

He continues “…always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Unconditional love has no parameters around it. We trust even if the person isn’t trust worthy. To do that we have to hope that they will get better. We believe that they will get better. That trust and hope will help us persevere in that love relationship.

First Corinthians chapter thirteen is often used for weddings. That is great, but this love is more than the love we have for our spouse. It is the love we are to have toward everyone. In fact, this kind of love is so important that Paul states in verse 13: “and now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I want to clarify faith. The word used is more specifically truth, often used to describe the Gospel. In other words, it isn’t just any faith, it is faith in the truth, the Gospel. Paul is saying in this last verse that everything else will fail but these three will remain and Love is the greatest of all. It is greater than hope. It is greater than truth. It is greater than our Salvation because our salvation flows from God’s love for us.

Why is this important? It is important because “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” If Jesus didn’t come to condemn, why do we think we should? No, God so loved us, so that we can so love the world too. This means God’s love should flow through us and spill all over everyone around us. If it doesn’t there is a problem.

Now we see the reason for the problems of this world. God’s love isn’t flowing through us. We are selfishly withholding it. A stopped-up jar can’t over flow, but it can’t be replenished either. Love is living. If we stop it up it can’t breathe and slowly dies. We must let it flow. Are you letting God’s love flow?

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Connect with Even Your Enemy

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him” Proverbs 24:17-18a NKJV

Read these verses over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

This morning the whisper is a hard one to put into action, “connect with even your enemy.” It is hard because it goes far beyond just being respectful to those we don’t like, it is actually trying to form a relationship with them. Our verse today is a message to put our pride aside or God will correct us. When our enemies fall it is not our job to celebrate their misfortune. As Christians we need to show compassion for them.

This is not a message of defeat but a message of misfortune. It isn’t about battle but everyday relationships. There is no better way to win over an enemy than to connect with them when their down. To show compassion, to share in their struggle. They will expect us to gloat over their problems. They will think that we will use this opportunity to kick them while they are down. Think about what a testament it would be if we do the opposite. We pick them up. We cry with them.

Evil is dangerous but if we fight evil with evil, evil wins. The point of our very existence is to serve God. We serve God not when we take a life but when we save a life. We serve God when we shine the light of Jesus in the darkness. We serve God when we mirror His love, His grace, His mercy. Hate is not a trait of a servant of God, love is.

I am convicted. I can’t say that I love everyone. There are some who seem to always find ways to sabotage things that I am doing. They do it behind my back. It is hard to look them in the eye, let alone smile at them, when I see them. When we start to think bad things about them we need to stop and pray. Pray for them. Pray that we can see past the hurt and see them as God sees them. God will reveal to us how we are to treat them. He will take care of the judgement, that is not our place. We are to love them. Pray for blessings for them. Pray for them to know God’s love and then be prepared to be the one who shows God’s love to them.

If you want to change the world, you must first change your world, which starts at home. Change your attitude and those around you will change. Connect with others, including your enemies, and the world will change. Be the best servant of God that you can be, and the world will change. Mother Theresa of Calcutta is known to say It’s not about doing great things but doing small things with great love.

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Rest in Me

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1-2

Read these verses over and over. What is God whispering to you?

This morning God is whispering “rest in Me.” I need rest. I had a big weekend, although I can’t point to anything big, it was just a very busy one. I need rest. It is a rainy morning, so I don’t have that drive or want to go out and work in it. Instead I am taking time to rest.
What does it mean to rest in God? Our verse comes from a Psalm of David. When we look at the Hebrew used, rest means something different than what we usually think. It translates to stillness, silence, quiet and/or trust. Resting in God is not taking a nap. It is giving Him all our burdens. It is trusting Him and letting go of our worry. It is amazing the burden that is lifted from our backs when we trust God fully.

What is weighing you down? As I sit here, I realize that I’m feeling light. I have had moments of being weighed down. But currently I feel this relief that I haven’t felt for a while. I just feel like God has it all covered right now. There are things to worry about. I don’t want to even think about them now because I don’t want to pick them up again. I want to stay here, but life is outside. We can’t shelter in place. We must step out and be in the world.

There are many points in our two verses today that we need to keep in mind. God is our rest and our salvation. The two go hand in hand. Because He is our salvation we can rest. We don’t have to carry our gilt with us. We don’t have to shoulder the burden of being perfect. We just need to trust God with everything. Next, we see that He is my rock and my salvation. The word for rock is often used to refer to refuge or protection. Like a rock or boulder is strong it offers good cover from our enemies. Again, because He is our salvation we can take cover in Him. He is my fortress, I will never be shaken. What is a fortress? It is a place of refuge, protection. If God is all that how could we be shaken?

When we place trust in God for especially our salvation, there is nothing to be afraid of. As we go out into the world to combat evil we don’t have to worry about being overcome by it because God is our protection. But if we try to do it on our own we have no protection.
We need to understand that we are in a battle with darkness. Some people understand this, but they take refuge in the church. Notice our verse doesn’t say that. It says God is my fortress, not the church. We are to go out into the darkness, to shine the light of Jesus to the rest of the world. Yes, this is dangerous. It is exhausting but We aren’t to do it alone, nor with our own strength. We have to go out with God right beside us. If we trust in Him. If we spend time in prayer and the Word, we will have rest. We will be strengthened.

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